Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dree Story - 2: Sustaining Agriculture

Life was good. Abotani had good harvests every year from his aji at Liiha Poñtañ.

One year, however, Abotani noted that the yield had decreased. It decreased further the next year. As usual, Abotani turned to Aba Liibo and Ane Donii for advice.

Aba Liibo and Ane Donii examined the field. Their faces became gloomy.

“What’s the matter, my Lord?” Abotani asked with a worried expression.

“Dree is eating up your crops,” they said. “That is why your harvest is low.”

“Who is this Dree?” Abotani asked, perplexed.

“This is Dree,” Aba Liibo said, pointing to a tiny pest nibbling away at a paddy sapling.

“And this too,” said Ane Donii, picking up a worm which was eating the root of another sapling.

“Dree, in the form of these pests, insects and worms are destroying your crops,” they told.

“What should I do now?” asked Abotani looking up at Aba Liibo and Ane Donii with hope.

“Alas! We have no clue,” they said, sadly.

Abotani could not sleep that night. As soon as he heard the first crow of the cocks, he went to Anii Niinii and Punu Ninii.

“What brings you here, Tani?” they asked.

“I have been working very hard,” Abotani said. “But Dree is eating up the fruits of my labor. I have come here to seek your wise counsel.”

“Ah! Dree!!” they cried. “You need to propitiate Dree.”

Abotani started thinking quickly, “Who can help me propitiate Dree?”

He then remembered Changu Mitu (Poñkha Sah) and Dogu Misi (Pongu Mitu). “There is no greater priest than they,” he told himself. With hope flickering, he approached Changu Mitu and Dogu Misi.

“Dree has been eating my crops,” Abotani told the priests. “Anii Niinii and Punu Niinii have advised me to propitiate Him. Pray, help me.”

“Why not, son,” said the priests. “We will be happy to help mankind.”

So, Changu Mitu and Dogu Misi set working. First they collected a cup each of rice or millet from each household as Dree myiihii. Then they constructed the Dree pogyañ (altar) at Liiha Poñtañ. With offerings of hens and eggs, they then called upon Danyi-Piilo, Sii-Myoro, Siipiñ-Myome, Siitêr-Korlañ and Harnyañ-Pubyañ to prevent Dree from destroying the crops.

This was the first Dree! Thus the cultivation of food to feed mankind was sustained.

Welcome to Dree festival being celebrated by the descendants of Abotani every year!

Dree Story - 1: the Beginning of Agriculture

Abotani was tired. It had been a long day. He did not get much food today, though he had trekked through several hills. He had to forage for food everyday. He had to survive.

Lying down beside the fire, an idea struck Abotani, “I could plant the seeds of the food at one place. I won’t, then, have to go from place to place.”

As the cocks crew early next morning, he took this idea to Aba Liibo and Ane Donii. “A brilliant idea, Tani,” they cried. “Go to Jilyu Myogyañ (Jilyu Myodi) and Tolyo Siipêr (Yomo Barañ). Sow the seeds there. They shall be your aji (agricultural fields).”

“Where would I get the seeds?” Abotani asked.

“Ah, we will find out who can give you the seeds,” Aba Liibo and Ane Donii said.

Help was forthcoming. Hintii and Hirii offered to provide seeds for the primary food items. So, Abotani got seeds of emo (rice), sarse (millet), taku (cucumber) and tanyi (corn) from them.

“These seeds are pure,” they told. “They will yield pure food. They will sustain you in good times and bad times.”

Aha Riñtii brought the seeds of other food items like tape (pumpkin), peruñ (bean), inge (taro) and so on. Abotani did not consider them pure but sowed them to supplement his diet.

Cultivation was thus started in Jilyu Myogyañ and Tolyo Siipêr. Life became more comfortable for Abotani. After some years, however, the yield decreased. Abotani was worried. He consulted Aba Liibo and Ane Donii again, “I have been working hard in the fields, but the land is not kind to me. What could be the reason?”

Aba Liibo and Ane Donii examined the soil and said, “Aha! These fields have lost their fetility.”

“Is there nothing I can do?” Abotani asked.

“Yes, you can, Tani,” they said. “Some distance from here is a place named Liiha Poñtañ. Go ye there and cultivate.”

So, Abotani shifted to Liiha Poñtañ and made it his agricultural field.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Monsoon is here again.

When the paddy crops start growing, it used to be time for different varieties of goñchi (dragonflies) to flitter around. The beautiful lañchañ goñchi, agile byago takho, proud yaju piikho and the king of all, the magnificent apañ kemañ. There was then the itu pumiñ, the smallest of all but so light-footed that it was a big challenge to catch any of them, and the dui goñchi with its characteristic black stripe. Jijiñ tayiñ - hordes of them: a swipe of bamboo stick would bring down a dozen of them. Apart from occasional byago takho, none of them can be seen today at Ziro. Some groups of jijiñ tayiñ can still be seen, but they are so much higher up than I can recall.

These days, there are lots of plums. Truckloads of them are being taken down to Itanagar as there is no market at Ziro. It is time somebody start some productive project to tap all such local resources here.

As any monsoon, it is wet. Since the roads are better everywhere, it is pleasant, though.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tiipe - the Body Art

Tiirii tiipe pa pa
Yapiñ tiipe pa pa
Nyachu piñpu pa pa
Goñpii tiipe pa pa
Pakii giilyu, giilyu, giilyu

The Apatani children used to grow up with the playful voices of their mothers singing this rhyme while mockingly putting tattoo (tiipe) on the face of the child, starting from the forehead (tiirii), nose (yapiñ) and the chin (goñpii) with her finger. Finally, she would tickle the child's chest making her laugh gleefully.

Apart from yapiñ and yaru hullo, tiipe is another form of body arts, practiced by the Apatanis. It was a painful and bloody process as the soot had to be stuck into the skin with thorns. Some children have said to have looked forward to the occasion when their face will be tattooed, but most understandably dreaded it.